Saudi women welcome World Bank recognition of advances in empowerment

A Saudi female employee serves a customer at a hypermarket, newly launched by the operator LuLu and run by a team of women, in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah, on Feb. 21, 2021. (AFP)
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A Saudi female employee serves a customer at a hypermarket, newly launched by the operator LuLu and run by a team of women, in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah, on Feb. 21, 2021. (AFP)
Wafa Alghamdi is director of life improvements with Mukatafah advocacy group in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Wafa Alghamdi is director of life improvements with Mukatafah advocacy group in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Maha S. Albalawi is a legal counselor with Pamas Group. (Supplied)
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Maha S. Albalawi is a legal counselor with Pamas Group. (Supplied)
Kholood Khaled Althekri is a public relations manager with Pamas Group in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Kholood Khaled Althekri is a public relations manager with Pamas Group in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi women welcome World Bank recognition of advances in empowerment

Saudi women welcome World Bank recognition of advances in empowerment
  • Annual Women, Business and the Law report ranks Kingdom in the top tier among 190 nations
  • Saudi Arabia scored 80 out of 100

RIYADH: The findings of a World Bank report about recent advances in the economic inclusion and empowerment of females in Saudi Arabia came as little surprise to the many women in the country already thriving in a wide range of jobs.
The Kingdom once again made significant progress compared with the previous year and ranks favorably alongside many advanced economies.
Women in the Kingdom who are benefiting from recent radical reforms designed to boost their participation in the workplace warmly welcomed the recognition of the country’s efforts by the World Bank’s annual Women, Business and the Law report, which this year ranked Saudi Arabia in its top tier.
“Legal reforms for women are a big part of the 2030 (Saudi) Vision and when you look at these reforms from an economic perspective, women now are moving freely, working freely, and they are now in fact likely to join the workforce more easily than before,” Kholood Khaled Althekri, a public relations manager with Pamas Group in Riyadh, told Arab News.
“These reforms will help strengthen the Kingdom’s economy for sure.”
The report places Saudi Arabia in the top tier of the 190 ranked nations with a score of 80 out of 100, compared with 70.6 last year. In allocating a score, researchers consider eight main factors: mobility, workplace, pay, entrepreneurship, pension, marriage, parenthood and assets. The Kingdom received full marks for the first five of these.
Empowering women is one of the key objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reforms plan, which aims to ensure they flourish and become active leaders and innovators who can contribute fully to the growth of the economy.
“In the outlined plans of Vision 2030 to develop the economy, the same vision will provide opportunities for everyone,” Althekri said. “Saudi women are the greatest assets to these plans, with more than half of university graduates now females.”
Wafa Alghamdi, director of life improvements with Mukatafah advocacy group in Riyadh, told Arab News that women in Saudi Arabia not only now have equal economic opportunities but are increasingly playing a significant role in the financial development of the country.
“Our religion and culture gives women a special place,” she said. “Women in our society are treated and considered as an asset to their households and families — and now as an asset to our country.
“We have something called ‘feminization,’ which is the new initiative by the government to increase the participation of women in work and business to encourage them and drive the force of the economy to the fullest.”
Alghamdi said that the support of Vision 2030 has helped her make strides in her career after she entered the hospitality industry and advanced through “hard work, dedication and government support” to reach the position of head of department in a relatively short time.
“I wouldn’t have been able to make it this far without the guidance of Allah, first, and our beloved country’s push and support to be on top,” she added.
Saudi Arabia has not only introduced legal reforms to promote female empowerment but also funded projects and initiatives in a number of sectors, including tourism, investment and culture, that have created opportunities for women. Along with these initiatives, government sectors are committed to guaranteeing and protecting women’s rights in the workplace. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, for example, has worked to reduce gender-based discrimination and find ways to create safe work environments that foster growth and innovation.
Women have also played their part in creating legislation, opening businesses, and taking a leading role in private-sector investment. In addition, Saudi Arabia now has its first female professional racing driver, award-winning female film producers and female judges.
It has been less than five years since Vision 2030 was announced, but already many women have become leaders in the Saudi economy, own successful businesses, manage departments in a variety of businesses, and have even attained the rank of sergeant in the military.
The World Bank report also noted Saudi initiatives that have eliminated barriers to women entering industrial jobs such as “mining, construction, manufacturing and the water sector, setting men and women on equal terms in choice of employment opportunities.”
Maha S. Albalawi, a legal counselor with Pamas Group told Arab News: “The year 2020 is considered one of the most important years in the history of Saudi women. The decisions of (the Kingdom) to empower women in a number of sectors were remarkable and very important.
“This development of empowering Saudi women took place on several levels and fields, including economically and in the field of entrepreneurship, so we find a number of Saudi businesswomen whose names are (now known) locally and internationally.”
Albalawi said legal reforms ensure the rights of women will be protected and have resulted in funding for legal action in marital disputes.
“Several court rulings have also been issued in favor of Saudi women, such as the law on protection from violence, and for Saudi women to become judges for the first time in the history of the Kingdom,” she added.
All of the women Arab News spoke with said they have had personal experience of how the changes being implemented across the Kingdom have improved their lives and career prospects.
“I still remember when I first entered the private sector, as a coordinator, and I was afraid that I could not be as good as my male colleagues,” said Alghamdi.
“As time passed I discovered that I was even better — and now I am director of life improvements, working with a group of amazing ladies who are also heads of their departments and giving their best for our community to grow.”


Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
Updated 21 April 2021

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
  • Room is fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the machines to move about and take food to customers

MAKKAH: We’ve all been there … you order a meal in a restaurant, and the waiter arrives with a pasta salad instead of a chicken biryani.
There are no such issues at Restaurant Robot in Jazan. As the name suggests, the waiters are not fallible human beings, but robots powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence.
Six robot assistants are operating in the city center restaurant to deliver trays of Asian dishes to patrons. The system was originally set up as a precaution to reduce human contact during the coronavirus pandemic, but it has proved a hit with visitors.
In a system designed by young Saudi engineer Reham Omar, the restaurant interior has been fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the robots to move about and take food to customers.
“Thanks to the sensors, the robots can sense anything standing near them, allowing them to stop walking or change their routes accordingly,” she told Arab News
“Each robot has had a map of the restaurant interior and the location of each table programmed into their memory. When the robot gets to the targeted table, customers can pick up their food and order the robot to leave.”
Omar said the idea had been developed by drawing on the experiences of other countries, and with support from the Saudi government for the food industry.
“We are proud of our project, as small as it is,” she said. “Customers are loving the robots and are impressed with the idea.
“Cultures are changing, and people are now eager to discover new technologies that can improve their quality of life.”


Saudi Arabia re-elected to Chemical Weapons watchdog’s Executive Council

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia re-elected to Chemical Weapons watchdog’s Executive Council

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
  • OPCW oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention
  • The Kingdom has been a member of the council since 1997

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has been re-elected as a member of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in the Asia section, until 2023.
It happened at The Hague, in the Netherlands, on Tuesday during the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties, which oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
Ziyad Al-Attiyah, the Saudi ambassador to the Netherlands and the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the OPCW, thanked the nations that supported the re-election of his country, and said that it is a reflection of Saudi Arabia’s status under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 
The Kingdom looks forward to working with the rest of the council’s members to enhance the implementation of the CWC, he added.
Al-Attiyah affirmed his country’s desire to strengthen cooperation as part of the efforts to prohibit weapons of mass destruction and prevent their proliferation, and to ensure the Middle East becomes a region free of such weapons to enhance international peace and security.
He added that the Kingdom’s chemical industries sector is one of the largest in the region and growing steadily, which makes it one of the leading countries in this field among the membership of Executive Council.
Saudi Arabia has been a member of the council — the main body of the OPCW — since its inception in 1997. It’s membership is made up of 41 countries, representing five geographic areas, that are elected for terms of two years at a time.


Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia renewed its call for Iran to engage in ongoing negotiations in Vienna, avoid escalation and not expose the region to more tension.
This came following a council of ministers meeting, chaired by King Salman on Tuesday.

The Cabinet reiterated that it is closely following the current developments related to Iran's nuclear program, citing the emphasis of the Kingdom's call for Iran to get involved in the current negotiations, prevent escalation and desist from jeopardizing the regional security and stability to further tension. 
The Saudi government also urged the international community to reach an agreement with stronger and longer determinants that are implemented through monitoring and control measures to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons and developing the necessary capabilities.

The Cabinet also renewed condemnation of the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist militia's attempts to target civilians as well as civilian facilities in the Kingdom in a systematic and intentional manner, through using bomb laden drones and ballistic missiles.


Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000
The authority reiterated that it was continuously monitoring the safety of the vaccines available in Saudi Arabia by studying cases of side effects. (SPA)
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000
  • The ministry said 940 people recovered from the virus over the past 24 hours, meaning 390,538 people have made full recoveries

JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) on Tuesday confirmed 34 cases of blood clots or thrombosis and low platelet count among people who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The authority suggests the existence of seven possible cases of thrombosis that are related to the vaccine, due to the absence of other reasons for the appearance of clots in them,” the SFDA said in a statement.
However, the authority also said that thrombocytopenia and blood-clotting immune response associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine is yet to be confirmed in these cases.
It said based on the local reports received, the rate of occurrence of these symptoms in conjunction with the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the Kingdom is “very rare.”
The SFDA said that all approved vaccines for the coronavirus (COVID-19) being used in the Kingdom are safe. It stressed that the desired benefits of the vaccine in question outweigh the potential risks.
The authority reiterated that it was continuously monitoring the safety of the vaccines available in Saudi Arabia by studying cases of side effects along with the local and international scientific evidence and data available.

FASTFACTS

• The Kingdom reports a 55 percent increase in the number of cases among women.

• 1,070 new infections were reported on Tuesday.

The SFDA advised recipients of the vaccine to consult a doctor or go to the nearest health center if any of the following symptoms appear or continue for more than three days after receiving a vaccine: Dizziness, severe and persistent headache, nausea or vomiting, issues with vision, shortness of breath, severe pain in the chest or abdomen or coldness in the extremities, swelling of the legs, small blood spots under the skin other than the injection site.
Dr. Abdullah Asiri, an infectious diseases consultant at the Saudi Ministry of Health, allayed public fears following the reports.
“How can a wrong conclusion deduced from a generalization become the most circulated news?” he wrote on Twitter. “In short, not every blood clotting after vaccinations is due to vaccinations. Thanks to vaccines, lives are saved every day. We have not yet had confirmed cases of platelet deficiency and blood clotting immune responses associated ‘hypothetically’ with COVID-19 vaccines.”
Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, a Ministry of Health spokesman, said: “We are still monitoring an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections, which is the highest since the beginning of this year. There has also been an increase in cases among females by 55 percent.”
The Ministry of Health reported 1,070 new confirmed cases in the Kingdom over the past 24 hours, meaning 407,010 people have now contracted the virus. Of the 9,626 active cases, 1,105 were in critical condition. There were 12 fatalities, which brought the national death toll to 6,846.
The ministry said 940 people recovered from the virus over the past 24 hours, meaning 390,538 people have made full recoveries.


Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness
The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched a campaign encouraging people to walk or run 20 kilometers for 20 days during Ramadan. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness
  • The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched ‘Step Together’ campaign to help people stay active during the holy month

JEDDAH: While consuming excessive food during the month of Ramadan goes against the purpose of the holy month, for many Saudis and people of the region, it is a time to indulge in special foods, which often leads to overeating.

For years, Saudis have been facing problems with obesity, with unhealthy diets leading to a variety of poor health conditions. While numerous campaigns have been launched to combat this issue, including by the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), their advice seems to fall on deaf ears during Ramadan.
Arab News spoke to experts — nutritionists and fitness trainers — who discussed their tips to help curb hunger and maintain a healthy weight.
Saudi fitness trainer Nouf Hamadallah, 37, explained that there is no best time to exercise during Ramadan; rather, the time and intensity of the workout can vary from person to person.
“Exercising during Ramadan depends on the flexibility of one’s schedule. There’s no specific time to work out. Most people who believe this are misinformed by what they read,” she told Arab News.

FASTFACTS

• A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted over phone interviews across 13 regions of the Kingdom in June 2020 showed that the national weighted prevalence of obesity was 24.7 percent.

• It highlighted that obesity was significantly associated with Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, among other diseases.

“One common bit of advice in popular articles says that if people work out before iftar, they will burn calories and lose weight. But this depends on their goals and calorie
intake. Some people cannot work out while fasting because they feel sick and nauseous, and their blood sugar drops. Then they become discouraged from exercising, not knowing that all they have to do is change the timing and nature of their workout. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
She added that it is easy to lose muscle mass if people do not choose the right foods for iftar and sahoor, also stressing that it is essential to hydrate during breakfast. Should one choose to work out right before iftar, a protein shake and a nutrient-dense meal with few carbs are advised in breaking fast.

If anyone wants to adopt healthy habits or break bad ones, Ramadan is an excellent chance to do so.

Arwa Bajkhaif, Dietician

“What you eat for sahoor will determine your energy levels for the next day, too. It should be a meal with a good amount of protein and vegetables,” said Hamadallah. “When your body is depleted of energy, the first thing you look for is sugar, and that’s what we want to avoid.”
Digestive problems such as acid reflux also occur due to poor eating habits in Ramadan, she added, and people with such digestive issues need to take note of the specific foods that irritate their stomachs.
She recommended that they avoid these foods if they are planning to exercise and instead have a few dates, soup and maybe a cup of coffee before beginning their workout, saving a full meal for afterward.
Iftar and sahoor also need to be divided into portions to avoid digestive problems, she added.
Saudi clinical and sports dietitian Arwa Bajkhaif, 29, said Ramadan is a “golden opportunity” to fast and practice self-control. If anyone wants to adopt healthy habits or break bad ones, Ramadan is an excellent chance to do so.

What you eat for sahoor will determine your energy levels for the next day.

Nouf Hamadallah, Fitness trainer

“People should know their dietary requirements and follow a suitable diet for their particular health situation during the holy month of Ramadan,” Bajkaif told Arab News
“For individuals with chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend seeing an endocrinologist for insulin and medication adjustments and a clinical dietitian for follow-ups to adjust the amount and type of carbohydrates accordingly.”
As for changing one’s eating habits, she suggested that people should not adopt more than three easy and healthy habits. “Being realistic and specific is key to achieving health goals.”
Saudi dietitian Alaa Gotah advised people to drink plenty of water between iftar and sahoor, avoid sugary drinks especially during iftar to maintain insulin levels, and eat plenty of hydrating food such as salads while limiting the intake of carbohydrates and sweets.
She stressed that fasting cleanses the body of toxins and forces cells into processes that are not usually stimulated when a steady stream of fuel from food is always present.
“Sahoor should include a healthy amount of fiber, which stays for a long time in the intestines. To reduce the feeling of thirst and hunger, it’s recommended to eat fruits that contain dietary fiber and magnesium, such as bananas, dates and watermelon,” Gotah told Arab News.  
A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted over phone interviews across 13 regions in June 2020 titled “Obesity in Saudi Arabia in 2020: Prevalence, Distribution, and its Current Association with Various Health Conditions” showed that the national weighted prevalence of obesity was 24.7 percent.
The study highlighted that obesity was significantly associated with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, among other diseases.
The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched a campaign to help people stay active during the holy month, presenting the Ramadan edition of “Step Together,” where people are encouraged to walk or run 20 kilometers for 20 days during Ramadan.